(16-04-22) Conversation Etiquette

Dear Sort-of-Strangers-In-a-Bar,

I’m going to go ahead and give all of you a pass because you’re friends with my friend … and although Azure sometimes has *terrible* judgment in some of the choices she makes, she has an amazing heart and a strong will, which should – i think – result in her ability to form some truly solid friendships with decent people.

With that said, Sort-of-Strangers, here are some things it is *not* okay to say or do to a cancer patient whom you barely know (or, in fact, just met tonight).

(Picture a guy in the friend circle: White, brown hair, medium height, a little … puffy – probably from years of drinking beer [especially during college].  Aside from initial introductions, he doesn’t say a word to me.  Just stares.  Repeatedly.  Extensively.)

  • It’s not okay to stare at a cancer patient for extended periods of time.

(Picture wind blowing from the air vent right above us, tousling one womyn’s shoulder-length brown hair.) “Well, you had the right idea – coming out tonight without any hair on.”

  • It’s not okay to try to make jokes about a cancer patient’s bald head.

(Maybe she wasn’t trying to be funny.  Maybe it was her way of breaking the ice.)

  • It’s not okay to make comments about a cancer patient’s bald head just so that YOU can feel more comfortable while you’re standing next to her.

(Picture puffy man still staring.  I get the feeling he is trying to think of something to say to me.  Maybe he’s just really drunk?)

(Picture another womyn wearing professional-grade make-up, including perfectly manicured eyebrows and false eyelashes, standing extremely close (too close) to me – a person who lost more than 1/2 of her brows and about 1/3 of her lashes during chemo)  “You’re so lucky that you didn’t lose your lashes, too.”

  • It’s not okay to stand really close to a cancer patient and point out her eyelashes (directly) and eyebrows (indirectly), especially knowing that your own eyelashes and eyebrows are 100% on point.

(Picture puffy man still staring, then finally thinking of something to say.)  “I really like the Burberry case and the pink Converse that you’ve got going on there.”

  • It’s not okay to use half-hearted flattery to stimulate conversation – ESPECIALLY since the cancer patient just watched you take longer than 10 minutes to come up with that.

(Picture three decked out MILF’s, all discussing the spin classes they’ve been attending this week.  One of them turns to me.)  “You should totally go!  Why haven’t you been coming with us?”

  • It’s not okay to compensate for whatever thoughts or feelings you’re dealing with right now by putting that extra edge of high-pitched fake excitement in your voice and pretend like you’re all eager to hang out with someone you’ve never met.
  • Also, it’s not okay to invite a cancer patient who *seriously* doesn’t look so healthy right now to a fucking spin class.

(Picture Eyelashes, returning to start another conversation.)  “You’d think they’d have come up with a cure by now – right?”

  • It is not okay to use the politics of cancer funding as a conversation starter.



a kind of annoyed cancer patient


Author: breastcancerat35

I was diagnosed with Stage 3C Invasive Breast Cancer in October/November, 2015. This blog is my way to process my experience and allow my loved ones to have ongoing updates about my journey.

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